SCHOOL FEES PROGRAM

SCHOOL FEES PROGRAM
 
Introduction 
Fort Portal Diocese in partnership with Holy Spirit Parish –Germany implements a school fees program for AIDS orphans. The program pays school fees for those orphans who do not have anyone to take care of them or whose remaining relatives are very poor. Children considered in the program are those who go to day schools, from senior one to four. Of recent we have had many requests to assist those prove that they are clever and have a strong desire to continue their education in senior five and six. The donors in Holy Spirit parish - Germany have accepted the idea but just for only few clever ones. The idea behind this is that we at least help the children to attain O-level education since after this level chances become more open for the children to acquire necessary qualification to get some jobs or continue with further studies in various vocational colleges that are available (e.g. teacher training colleges, nursing schools, technical schools etc). 
 
To date some of the children who did not have hope of going through to senior four but with our help did go through, are now having work, others got an opportunity and got sponsorship from other well wishers and are now attending further studies.  Negotiations with the donors in Germany are going on to support many children in higher education. 
 
Background information
 
Fort Portal diocese is located in the western part of Uganda at the border with the Democratic Republic of Congo. The distance from the diocesan headquarters in Fort Portal to the capital City Kampala is 300 Km. The diocese covers six administrative districts namely Kabarole, Kyenjojo, Kamwenge and Bundibugyo. 
 
In the last two decades the region has experienced a number of problems which include civil wars, natural calamities and above all serious pandemics e.g. the HIV/AIDS.  The HIV/AIDS pandemic has affected many families and communities in Uganda. The disease is till inflicting a heavy below on the economy of the country because it is the young people and the most productive group that is mostly affected. 
 
The main feature of the pandemic is the ever increasing number of orphans that are left behind by the dead parents. The situation of the orphans is aggravated by; poor nutrition, lack of essential commodities in households, poor housing, and lack of school fees and scholastics materials.  There are many child headed families in the country. Such children are vulnerable to lots of exploitations from the community. Many children in search of food, security and other needs end up being mistreated and exploited by unscrupulous individuals in society.  There are many teenage pregnancies, some girls in search of school fees have ended up being used as sex slaves by those who claim to be helping them. Some children end up in serious problems because some have to look for work to survive and the employers exploit their simplicity, give them heavy work than they can afford and in the end earn very little.
 
It is a dream of every child to have a better future through school education. Through education the children will be empowered to face the world with challenges and problems and will be well equipped to eliminate the injustices they are now going through.
 
Although we talk of free primary education in Uganda, not all of them are able to attain it fully. Apart from school fees the children need scholastic materials and other essential commodities that the government cannot pay for e.g. books, text books, pens, mathematical sets, uniforms, shoes etc. Because of poverty many of the children who finish primary school education, do not have a chance to go to secondary schools. 
 
The school fees program
 
The school fees program is an initiative of Fr. Joseph Musana and the Catholic community of Holy Spirit parish in Germany. In 2004 while in Germany to help out in the parish during the absence of Fr. Peter Göb who was in his holidays, Fr. Musana explained to the parishioners about the plight of children in Uganda as a whole and Fort Portal in Particular.  The parishioners welcomed the idea of a partnership with Fort Portal Diocese to help HIV/AIDS orphans. A proposal was made and the program begun in the second school term in 2005. Some members in that parish formed themselves into Fort Portal work Group to do the mobilization of the other members. This group has done a commendable job and the children are very happy about this.  
 
The program was started under the guiding concept which goes as follows “HELP FOR SELF HELP” The idea behind this is to empower the poor AIDS orphans so that they will be able in future to help themselves overcome the challenges of life and help others in turn. 
 
Achievements
 
1.To date over 400 orphans have benefited from this school fees program of Fort Portal diocese. Some are still in the program others have been weaned.  
 
2.Frau Dr. Bernadette Talartschick who did much to initiate this project has visited Fort Portal twice that is 2007 and 2008. She has been at the forefront in mobilizing others to support the school fees program in Fort Portal. During her visits she was able to visit the children in their families to see their relatives and how they live. She also visited some schools to learn about the education system in Uganda. Again in 2011 we Fr. Peter Goeb and Frau Dagmar Denkar visited Fort Portal. They were received by the children of the program in a colorful ceremony held at Virika, Caritas offices. Bishop Muhiirwa was the main celebrant at the mass to receive the two German Guests. 
 
3.During their holidays, the children always come together at caritas headquarters for a meeting. The meeting begins with the Holy sacrifice of mass and then free discussions amongst themselves follow. Fr. Joseph Musana facilitates these meetings and children are able to share their stories, challenges in life and lessons learnt.
 
4.The Rt. Rev. Robert Muhiirwa as a sign of solidarity and partnership visited Holy Spirit Parish in 2006. 

5.Fr. Joseph Musana has on several occasions visited the Donors in Holy Spirit Parish and given reports to the parishioners in Germany about the stand of the School fees program in Fort Portal Diocese.
 
Conclusion
 
The school fees program is very important for the orphaned children. Many of the orphans who did not have hope now have reasons to rejoice because they found someone to walk along with them as they carry their burden. However the need for school fees is enormous. The number of AIDS orphans is overwhelmingly big and this program because of limited recourses cannot help all the children in Fort Portal Diocese. Moreover this program takes care of only orphans but there are many needy children in the country who need help.